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Table of Contents

  1. Topic pack - Microeconomics - introduction
  2. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply
  3. 1.1 Competitive Markets: Demand and Supply - notes
  4. 1.1 Competitive markets - questions
  5. 1.1 Competitive markets - simulations and activities
  6. 1.2 Elasticities
  7. 1.2 Elasticities - notes
  8. Section 1.2 Elasticities - questions
  9. Section 1.2 Elasticities - simulations and activities
  10. 1.3 Government intervention
  11. 1.3 Government Intervention - notes
  12. 1.3 Government intervention - questions
  13. 1.3 Government intervention - simulations and activities
  14. 1.4 Market failure
  15. 1.4 Market failure - notes
    1. The meaning of externalities
    2. Types of externalities
    3. How do externalities affect allocative efficiency?
    4. Negative externalities of production
    5. Negative externalities of consumption
    6. The economic theory of traffic congestion
    7. Demerit goods
    8. Government responses - demerit goods
    9. Possible government responses to externalities
    10. Direct government provision
    11. Extension of property rights
    12. Taxes and subsidies
    13. Tradeable pollution rights
    14. Regulation, legislation and direct controls
    15. Positive externalities of production
    16. Positive externalities of consumption
    17. Merit goods
    18. Why might merit goods be underprovided by the market?
    19. Government responses - merit goods
    20. Public goods
    21. Common access resources & sustainability
    22. The tragedy of the Commons
    23. Common access resources in practice
    24. Sustainability
    25. Threats to Sustainability
    26. The threat to sustainability from the use of fossil fuels
    27. The threat to sustainability from poverty
    28. Government responses to threats to sustainability
    29. Cap and Trade Schemes
    30. Promoting Clean Technologies
    31. The 'dirty side' of cleaner technologies
    32. International responses to threats to sustainability
    33. Asymmetric information
    34. Abuse of monopoly power
    35. Inequality
  16. Section 1.4 Market failure - questions
  17. Section 1.4 Market failure - simulations and activities
  18. 1.5 Theory of the firm
  19. 1.5 Theory of the firm - notes (HL only)
  20. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - questions
  21. Section 1.5 Theory of the firm - simulations and activities
  22. Print View

Common access resources & sustainability

Common access resources

Common access, or common pool resources (CAR/CPR), are natural resources including forests and pastures, fisheries, oil and gas fields, national parks, grazing lands and irrigation systems, which are characterised by the difficulty of excluding people from using them. As a result of the inability to charge a price for their use, over-consumption, degradation and depletion of these resources is a likely outcome. Indeed, the use by one individual or group of the resource will mean that less of that resource is available for use by others. This distinguishes common access resources from pure public goods, which exhibit both non-excludability andnon-rivalry in consumption.

It is argued that the lack of a price mechanism for common access resources results in their overuse, depletion and degradation. The consequence of the actions of producers and consumers, who do not pay for the resources they use, creates a threat to sustainability and, therefore, the availability of common access resources for future generations.

The origin of the study of common access resources dates back to medieval land tenure in Europe, where herders were entitled to graze their cows on common parcels of land for free. The result was over-grazing and the degradation of the land. The problem was described and analysed by Garrett Hardin in his article 'The Tragedy of the Commons', which appeared in the Science journal in 1968. Hardin explained that it was in each herder's interest to put any additional cows he acquired onto the grazing land, even if the quality of the common was damaged for the whole community. This was considered to be a rational economic decision by the individual herder, because each additional cow added to the individual's 'marginal utility', while the damage to the common land was shared by the entire group. However, the consequence of these individual rational economic decisions was market failure because these actions resulted in the degradation, depletion or even destruction of the resource to the detriment of all users and, therefore, society in general.